Japan is famous for its delicious seafood, and sushi is becoming increasingly commonplace in many countries throughout the world. Want a real treat to go along with your sushi lunch? As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, you can book with us to learn how to make sushi. Now, let’s explore where you can see our sushi chefs buy their fish! Tsukiji Fish Market is Tokyo’s mecca for seafood and sushi lovers, so don’t miss your chance to see this amazing place… especially before it closes!
That’s right! If you haven’t heard the news yet, the Tsukiji Fish Market is closing in October 2018. Well, it’s not exactly closing—it’s transforming. But there’s still some time left this year to see the market in its original form, so let’s dive into some of the best ways to enjoy visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market!
The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the oldest markets in Tokyo. Almost every day, wholesalers and fishmongers gather here to sell their wares to professional chefs, restaurant owners, and travelers alike. The Tsukiji Fish Market wasn’t originally designed to be a tourist destination, but thanks to its lively atmosphere, delicious food, and deep cultural significance, it’s become one of the must do things in Tokyo!
…Any day that the market is open! The market is generally closed on Sundays, Wednesdays, and national holidays, but there are some exceptions throughout the year, so be sure to check that the market’s open days align with your schedule! Unfortunately, websites with the most accurate calendars are only available in Japanese, but you can consult us to find the best dates for your trip!
There are three main areas of the Tsukiji Fish Market, and each area offers its own activities and attractions. Let’s explore them all!
Visiting the Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction
Fins down, the tuna auction site is the most famous and attractive area of the market. Tuna is one of the most popular varieties of sushi in Japan, and chefs from sushi restaurants all over Tokyo come here to scoop up the best catches. First, the chefs get a chance to examine each of the lots. They use pickaxe-like hooks to pull out a bit of frozen meat and feel its consistency between their fingers. Then, they check the color of the fish with a flashlight. After everyone has a chance to gauge the quality of the catch and decide on what prices they’re willing to pay, the bidding war begins! The auctioneers ring a bell and capture everyone’s attention by holding a long, rolling note before shouting out prices at lightning speed. One giant tuna can sell for anywhere between US $100 and US $600,000!
At Tsukiji Fish Market’s current location, travelers are allowed to watch the tuna auction—but getting in takes some strategy. There are two tours of the tuna auction every day: one at 5:50 am, and another at 6:05 am. Only 60 visitors are admitted into each 15-minute tour, making this quite the exclusive experience! To get picked for this event, you’ll have to line up early—very early. Admission is first-come, first served and reservations are not allowed. Some people line up as early as 3:00 am, but true “fin-atics” may line up as early as 1:00 am! You’ll have to carefully decide where you’ll stay, and whether you’ll get up early or stay out all night. Or, you can book with us and we’ll work out the logistics to get you to the Tsukiji Fish Market early!
Visiting the Outer Market
Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the best places in Tokyo to eat sushi and seafood! If you’re able to get into the tuna auction, you can enjoy a famous Tsukiji Fish Market sushi breakfast in the Outer Market. Or if you decide to go later in the day, check out the lunch specials at the Outer Market’s sushi spots’ lunch specials to satisfy your cravings for nigiri sushi and miso soup! The Outer Market—Jogai in Japanese—is a maze of snack stalls and street restaurants. Interestingly, some of these establishments opened generations ago and are still run by the same families today!
Eating at Tsukiji Fish Market is quite the culinary experience. Each Tsukiji Fish Market restaurant offers specialties that delight every taste bud. You can search for the best sushi in Tsukiji Fish Market or go for other dishes like ramen, eel skewers, Japanese omelet, fresh sea urchin, giant oysters, matcha ice cream, and more! If you’re a cooking enthusiast, don’t pass up a Japanese cooking knife, which are said to be coveted by chefs worldwide, or some authentic spices for your collection at home. Whether you shop or eat, make sure to bring plenty of cash—most vendors don’t accept credit cards!
Visiting the Inner Market
The Inner Market—Jonai in Japanese—is a wholesale market for vendors and buyers to conduct business. Here, you can watch chefs and restaurant owners bustle through the narrow streets and dash from stall to stall as they try to beat the competition for the best deal. Because the Inner Market is primarily a place of business, visitors aren’t allowed in until 11:00 am when peak purchasing hours end. This area isn’t designed for travelers, so you won’t find too many souvenirs or snacks. Instead, you’ll get the chance to see a special side of Japanese culture!
While Visiting the Tuna Auction
oStay in the designated areas for observers
oNo flash photography
oDon’t disturb the flow of the auction
oListen to the guards and carefully follow the rules
oAnyone not in compliance will be booted from the tour immediately
While Visiting the Outer Market
oWear light, comfortable clothes
oWear close-toed shoes
oDon’t carry luggage or large backpacks
oBe respectful and don’t haggle with the vendors
While Visiting the Inner Market
oDon’t enter before 11:00 am
oNo photography—flash or otherwise—unless given express permission
oDon’t touch anything that you haven’t purchased
oDon’t obstruct traffic
oDon’t enter areas for restricted personnel
oDon’t smoke (including electronic cigarettes) in the market outside of designated areas
oDon’t obstruct the flow of business anywhere in the market
You may be surprised to learn that Tsukiji Fish Market is over 80 years old! Unfortunately, decades of earthquakes and other natural disasters have caused its buildings to gradually deteriorate, and Tsukiji is now in desperate need of renovations. In addition, traveler numbers increase each year, and the old, narrow streets can no longer accommodate the throngs of people who pass through the market each day. Rather than spending money on an expensive and lengthy remodeling project, Tsukiji will move its tuna auction and Inner Market to Tokyo’s Toyosu area. Even though this move has been postponed multiple times over the years, it seems these areas will finally close on October 6th, 2018 and reopen in Toyosu on October 11th, 2018. However, the Outer Market will remain in the Tsukiji District.
If you’ve already savored delicious morsels of Japanese fish and are craving a new kind of culinary adventure, you’ll definitely want to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market! If you visit the market, remember that Tsukiji is—first and foremost—a place of business, not a tourist attraction. While you enjoy the experience and sample some raw fish, please be careful to follow the market’s rules and etiquette. This will make your and your fellow travelers’ experiences that much better!